Rebuttal to David Wood's Article "Muhammad in the Bible?: An Analysis of the Muslim Appeal to Biblical Prophecy"
David Wood's article could be found over here.
David Wood said:
According to many Muslims, the Bible is full of prophecies about Muhammad. Christian apologists have spent a great deal of time refuting this claim, but, as the following account will demonstrate, the Bible does contain clear prophecies about Muhammad. Nevertheless, the Muslim search for prophecies supporting Islam has been sloppy; as a result, defenders of Islam have failed to provide a single well-evidenced example of a Biblical prediction about their prophet. Thus, after briefly examining the Qur'anic claim to Biblical support, I will show (1) that the standard Biblical verses used by Muslims to support this claim are extremely problematic for Islam, and (2) that Christian apologists are wrong when they claim that the Bible is silent when it comes to Islam.
The Qur'an expressly states that both the Old and New Testaments contain references to Muhammad:
Those who follow the Messenger, The unlettered Prophet, Whom they find mentioned In their own (Scriptures) - In the Law and the Gospel? ... It is they who will prosper. (Qur'an 7:157)
And remember, Jesus, The son of Mary, said: "O Children of Israel! I am the messenger of Allah (Sent) to you, confirming The Law (which came) Before me, and giving Glad Tidings of a Messenger To come after me, Whose name shall be Ahmad [i.e. Muhammad]." (Qur'an 61:6)
I want to make it clear from the beginning what Muslims actually believe. We believe that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was predicted in the original Torah and Gospel revealed to Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them both) respectively. Some of these prophecies happened to remain preserved and found their way into the Bible, which also contains much falsehood according to Islamic teachings.
Ibn Abbaas said in his commentary on Surah 2:79:
(Therefore woe) severe punishment, and it is said this means: a valley in Hell (be unto those who write the Scripture with their hands) change the description and traits of Muhammad (pbuh) in the Book (and then say, " This is) in the Book that has come (from Allah " , that they may purchase) through changing and altering it (a small gain therewith) a small gain in terms of means of subsistence and surplus of property. (Woe unto them) theirs is a severe punishment (for what their hands have written) have altered (and woe unto them) and theirs is a severe punishment (for what they earn thereby) of unlawful earnings and bribes. (Ibn Abbaas, Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn 'Abbâs, Commentary on Surah 2:79, Source)
Early Qur'anic commentator Muqatil bin Sulaiman says in his commentary on Surah 2, Verse 79:
رءوس اليهود بالمدينة محوا نعت محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم من التوراة، وكتبوا سوى نعته
The leaders of the Jews in Medina erased the descriptions and traits of Muhammad peace be upon him from the Torah, and they wrote other traits and descriptions (Source)
Abu al-Layth al-Samarqandi (d. 373 A.H.), the well known Hanafi scholar in his commentary of the Qur'an known as Bahr al-'Ulum on Surah 2, verse 79 quotes Az-Zajjaj as saying:
وذلك أن رؤساء اليهود محوا نعت محمد - صلى الله عليه وسلم - ثم كتبوا غير نعته،
The leaders of the Jews erased the traits and descriptions of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, then they wrote things besides his traits and descriptions.
Imam ar-Razi said:
As for the third evidence it is with reference to what is maintained in the Torah and gospels concerning the Prophethood of Muhammad. The objection to this evidence (on the Jewish and Christian side) is whether you (Muslims) say that the description of Muhammad was written in these books in detail; namely that Allah Almighty, made manifest that he shall come in the coming years and in such and such country, a person whose description shall be such and such, and so know you that he is my messenger. On the one hand; or they say: 'No, but rather Allah has merely referred to him briefly, without specification due to time, place or personality.' And so if you hold on to the first claim it false and faulty: (O, you Muslims.)" (Fakhar ad-Din ar-Razi, Muhassal Afkar Al-Mutaqadimin Wal Mut'akhrin (Cairo, Maktabat al-Kuliyyat al-Azhariyya) p. 211 and Fakhr ar-Razi, Mafatih Al-Ghayb, Cairo, Dar al-Ghad al-'Arabi, 1412 A.H. 1991 A.D. vol.3, pp.186 f, vol.9, 233, cited here)
Thus, it is not a surprise for a Muslim to find that the predictions of Muhammad (peace be upon him) are vague and some how isolated from the context of the entire Bible. The reason for this is because there is also falsehood in the Bible, which would distort the truth.
Thus, the Muslim is not required in any way to prove that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is clearly predicted in the Bible by taking all the verses in the Bible into consideration. This is simply the Muslim position regardless of one likes it or not.
I found this "Muhammad in the Bible" argument to be effective with the Jews and Christians of the Prophet Muhammad's time since many of them still knew the true teachings of the Torah and Gospel despite its textual corruption. These people are not here today and that is why I personally do not use the "Muhammad in the Bible" argument.
However, one thing that I do want to show in this article is that it cannot be proven from the Bible that Muhammad is not the one whom the Torah and Gospel predicted to come. Despite all the falsehood that I believe is in the Torah and Gospels today, I would still argue that it cannot be proven that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is clearly not predicted at all.
We will start with David Wood trying to argue against Deuteronomy 18.
David Wood said:
If we were to take Deuteronomy 18:15 by itself, completely ignoring the rest of the book, we might have some reason to agree with the Muslim apologists on this issue. However, even a cursory examination of the context of this prophecy demonstrates the flaws in the Islamic position.
First, the passage says that God will raise up a prophet like Moses, because the Israelites didn't want to speak directly with God. The Israelites said, "Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God ... that I die not," and God replied, "They have well spoken that which they have spoken." Hence, when verse 18:15 is taken in context, we see that the Jews were asking for a mediator, someone to stand between them and God just as Moses did. The ultimate fulfillment of this passage would be someone who stands as a permanent mediator between God and man. While Muhammad could certainly be viewed as an intermediary of some sort, the passage seems to fit more comfortably if the Prophet is Jesus. At best, one could argue that Muhammad was a link in the chain of transmission from the Qur'an, from Allah, to Gabriel, to Muhammad, to mankind. But this doesn't fulfill the prophecy. Muslims don't believe in the sort of mediator required by Deuteronomy 18. In Christianity, however, Jesus is a permanent mediator: "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time" (1 Timothy 2:5-6).
This is certainly a weak argument. I see no reason why Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) can't be that mediator.
David Wood says it nicely himself:
At best, one could argue that Muhammad was a link in the chain of transmission from the Qur'an, from Allah, to Gabriel, to Muhammad, to mankind.
Then he says:
But this doesn't fulfill the prophecy. Muslims don't believe in the sort of mediator required by Deuteronomy 18.
The funny thing is that David has not shown us why! What does he mean that Muslims don't believe in the sort of mediator required by Deuteronomy 18? Can he educate us on what kind of mediator we believe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is and also educate us on what kind of mediator the Israelites were asking for?
Secondly, doesn't David realize that this argument hurts Christianity?
Deuteronomy 18 says that the Israelites don't want to speak to God directly anymore, however Christians believe that God came in the flesh and spoke to the Israelites directly! So how on earth could Jesus be the one who fulfills Deuteronomy 18 as Christians claim? If Jesus is the fulfiller of Deuteronomy 18, then we cannot believe that Jesus is God!
If David is planning to reply back and say something like "Well no you see, Deuteronomy 18 is really trying to say that the Jews don't want to speak to God the Father, thus God the Son came instead" then I urge him to really think about who is the one distorting scripture here.
David Wood said:
Next, Moses says that God will raise up a prophet "from the midst of thee." Since he is talking to Israelites, it sounds as if God is telling them that he will raise up a prophet from the midst of Israel. In any case, Muhammad surely wasn't raised up from the midst of Jews. Jesus, on the other hand, was born and raised in Israel, so the context again fits more comfortably if Moses is referring to Jesus.
David Wood is trying to restrict us to the King James Version's translation. However, why don't we appeal to other translations such as:
God, your God, is going to raise up a prophet for you. God will raise him up from among your kinsmen, a prophet like me. Listen obediently to him.
The Amplified Bible
15The Lord your God will raise up for you [a]a prophet (Prophet) from the midst of your brethren like me [Moses]; to him you shall listen.
New International Readers Version
15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me. He will be one of your own people. You must listen to him.
New International Version
15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.
None of these translations have "the midst of thee", rather they speak about the Prophet coming from their brethren and not the midst of them.
When we look at the Hebrew, the "midst of thee" is not there:
The Lord (Yahovah) your God (elohiym) will raise up (quwm) for you a Prophet (nabiy') like (kemo) me from among (qereb) your brethren ('ach)...
So here we don't see that "the midst of thee" is present in the Hebrew, thus rendering David's argument to be void.
David Wood said:
Third, although Muslims often claim that the term "brethren" must refer to the Ishmaelites, the Book of Deuteronomy shows that this claim is completely false. To be sure, "brethren" can be used to refer to people other than the Jews, and it is used in this manner with the Edomites earlier in Deuteronomy (see 2:4). However, the term "brethren" is most commonly used when referring to other Israelites:
If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother. (Deuteronomy 15:7)
That this verse refers to fellow Israelites is clear from the verses that follow, for Moses tells his listeners not to ignore the brother just because the year for canceling debts is near (the year of debt-cancellation was meant for fellow Israelites).
"Brethren" is also used regarding the selection of a king:
When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. (Deuteronomy 17:14-15)
The Jews obviously weren't being commanded to seek an Arab king here. Rather, they were commanded to get a king "from among thy brethren," meaning a fellow Jew. The term "brethren" is even used as a reference to other Israelites in Deuteronomy 18, the same chapter from which the prophecy is taken:
The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: They shall eat the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and his inheritance. Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: the LORD is their inheritance, as he hath said unto them. (Deuteronomy 18:1-2)
The Levites were to have no inheritance among their brethren (the other tribes of Israel). This is how chapter 18 begins, and we're never given so much as a hint that the meaning of "brethren" has changed so that, by verse 15, it refers to Ishmaelites. Given this repeated use of "brethren" to refer to Israelites, it is disturbing to read Muslim polemics which claim that "Ishmaelites" is the only possible interpretation of "brethren." Consider, for instance, what Deedat says about "brethren":
The children of Isaac are the brethren of the Ishmaelites. In like manner Muhammed is from among the brethren of the Israelites because he was a descendent of Ishmael the son of Abraham. This is exactly as the prophecy has it?"FROM AMONG THEIR BRETHREN". (Deut. 18:18). There the prophecy distinctly mentions that the coming prophet who would be like Moses, must arise NOT from the "children of Israel" or from "among themselves", but from among their brethren. MUHAMMAD THEREFORE WAS FROM AMONG THEIR BRETHREN!
Contrary to what Deedat suggests, Moses' prophecy doesn't say that the prophet must not come from the children of Israel. Indeed, given the repeated use of "brethren" to refer to Israelites in Deuteronomy (especially in chapter 18), it is a wonder that anyone would interpret it otherwise. Deedat is therefore either completely ignorant of how "brethren" is used in Deuteronomy, or deliberately deceptive towards his Muslim readers (knowing that few of them will actually examine his absurd claim).
I will agree that David is making a somewhat reasonable point over here. However, I do have to insist that this is not conclusive evidence that the term "brethren" could not be referring to anyone else instead of the Israelites.
Just because Deuteronomy 17 (which the verse itself makes explicitly clear by saying that a foreigner must not be their king) or Deuteronomy 18:2 (which is clearly referring to the Israelites if one reads verse 1) have the term "brethren" to mean Israelites this does not necessarily imply that Deuteronomy 18:18 is limiting the term "brethren" to the Israelites, since it could very well be referring to their cousins as well. No reason could be shown why brethren in Deuteronomy 18:18 could only be speaking about the Israelites.
Christians have no problem interpreting the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 to not be referring to the state of Israel, even though the passages before it clearly were. Similarly, I have no problem with stating that the word "brethren" could be referring to non-Israelites even though the word was referring to Israelites a few verses earlier.
David Wood said:
Fourth, the conclusion of the Book of Deuteronomy tells us how we should interpret Moses' phrase "like unto me":
And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses. And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders, which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, and in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:9-12)
Here the phrase "like unto Moses" suggests a prophet who would speak with God face to face and perform signs and wonders "in the sight of all Israel." Muhammad doesn't fit either of these criteria. He claimed to have received his revelations from Gabriel, not directly from God, and he admittedly could not perform miracles. Jesus, however, both performed miracles (as even the Qur'an acknowledges) and spoke directly with God:
Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. (John 5:19-20)
Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lift up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. (John 8:28)
For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak. (John 12:49)
He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. (John 14:24)
The Qur'an does not say that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not perform miracles. See here. What is actually confusing is whether the Bible teaches that Jesus performed miracles or not. See here.
Also, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did speak directly with Allah in his night journey when he ascended unto the heavens. See here.
David Wood said:
Finally, while Muslims appeal to Deuteronomy 18:15-19 as evidence for their prophet, they would do well to read the next verse, which, when combined with a certain embarrassing event from Muhammad's life, turns out to be proof against the prophet of Islam. In Deuteronomy 18:20, God declares:
But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
Here God gives us two criteria for recognizing a false prophet: (1) If a person delivers a revelation which doesn't come from God, the person is a false prophet; and (2) if a person speaks in the name of other gods, the person is a false prophet. Interestingly, Muhammad meets both criteria, for he delivered the infamous "Satanic Verses" (i.e. verses he gave to his followers as part of the Qur'an but later claimed were inspired by Satan). Since these verses did not come from God, Muhammad meets the first criterion. And since the verses promoted polytheism, Muhammad meets the second criterion as well. Hence, the very passage that Muslims claim as their primary Biblical prophecy about Muhammad turns out to proclaim that Muhammad can't be a prophet at all! (For a much fuller treatment of Deuteronomy 18:20 as evidence against Muhammad, see "The Deuteronomy Deductions.")
I will ask the readers to refer to my article here.
David Wood said:
First, Muslims draw this prophecy from a book that begins by declaring that Jesus is God and that he created all things (John 1:1-3). In the Book of John, Jesus claims to have existed before Abraham (8:58) and describes himself as the ladder between heaven and earth (1:51; cf. Genesis 28:10-17). A blind man who receives his sight worships Jesus (9:35-38), and Thomas calls Jesus "My Lord and my God" (20:28). Jesus is crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected, events that are at odds with the Qur'an. Further, in the very chapters to which Muslims appeal for their predictions about Muhammad, Jesus proclaims that he is the only way to God (14:6), that anyone who has seen him has seen the Father (14:9), that he is "in the Father" and that the Father is in him (14:11), that he can answer prayers (14:14), and that we cannot bear fruit unless we abide in him (15:4). We might wonder why Muslims appeal to a book that is so diametrically opposed to Islam. However, we must remember that Muhammad declared that there are prophecies about him in the New Testament. Muslims are thus forced into grasping at anything that will help them vindicate Muhammad's claim.
We don't believe that the entire Gospel of John today is authoritative, but that some truth might have found its way into it.
As for the so called passages that Christians claim show the divinity of Jesus, they have been sufficiently refuted and clarified. Refer here.
David Wood said:
Second, the three passages from John repeatedly identify the Comforter as the Holy Spirit (or the "Spirit of Truth").
This argument can be avoided because the Greek word for spirit in the passage is pneuma, which also could be used to be referring to prophets as in 1 John 4:1. Thus, it is not impossible to say that Jesus was referring to a 'Prophet of Truth' or 'Holy Prophet'
David Wood said:
Third, as we just saw, Jesus says that the Comforter would be with his disciples forever. In no sense was Muhammad ever with Jesus' disciples, let alone with them permanently.
This can easily be resolved by interpreting Jesus' statement to mean that the Prophet will be with us in his teachings since they have remained intact and still influence us. It does not require him to be here in person.
I will clarify this point a little bit more as we go on.
David Wood said:
Fourth, according to the prophecy, the world cannot receive the Comforter because it cannot see him. Thousands of people saw Muhammad during his lifetime, for he was visible. Thus, the invisible Comforter cannot be the visible Muhammad.
David's argument shows his misunderstanding of what Jesus was trying to say. When Jesus uses the word "see" at times, it is not to be taken literally always. For example, just a few verses earlier in verse 9 Jesus says, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father". Now the use of the word for 'seeing' here is not to be taken literally because it is obvious that those whom Jesus was addressing were able to see him. It doesn't refer to the eyes of the body but to the eyes of understanding. (Refer to John Gill's Exposition of the Bible)
The Greek word used in John 14:17 to denote seeing is theoreo, which could also be used to mean that one should consider something, just as in Hebrews 7:4. It could also be used to mean that one should discern something. Thus, without violating any grammatical rules of the Greek language, John 14:17 can also safely be interpreted as meaning that no one would accept the Holy Prophet for no one would even consider him or spiritually perceive him.
The Qur'an refers to the spiritually blind (those who cannot spiritually see) in (Surah 2:170-171)
David Wood said:
Fifth, Jesus tells the disciples that the Comforter was already with them. While the Holy Spirit was with Jesus' disciples, Muhammad wasn't born for more than five centuries after this prophecy and therefore couldn't have been with them.
What does it mean when Jesus told the disciples that the Comforter "dwelleth" with them? Well, I don't find it radically impossible to understand this as meaning that the Comforter dwells in their knowledge and understanding. It doesn't necessarily imply that he literally lives with them (again, remember that Jesus was known to speak in a figurative way). Thus, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) being predicted to these people is "dwelling with them" because they have foreknowledge of his coming.
Secondly, it could also be understood that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) "dwells with the people" because he is alive through his teachings. When the Qur'an in Surah 3:101 says that the Prophet (peace be upon him) is in our midst we understand this as him being alive in his teachings (see Imam Qurtubi's commentary on that verse).
So why can't we say that Jesus is saying the same thing here, especially since he is known to have spoken figuratively?
Someone may object to the fact that Prophet Muhammad's teachings weren't around at that time and Jesus said "dwelleth with YOU" and that this shows he was speaking to the disciples.
However, this shows the misunderstanding of the use of the word 'you'. Christians have no problem claiming that Deuteronomy 18:18 refers to Jesus even though the verse says 'you' to a specific group of people at least a thousand years before the birth of Jesus. So as we can see the usage of the word 'you' could seem to be referring to future generations to come.
David Wood said:
Sixth, the Comforter was to be in the disciples. Muhammad is not in Jesus' followers and never will be. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, filled the believers at Pentecost and has been in Christians ever since.
David shows how he has a problem taking things too literally especially when Jesus was known to have spoken figuratively pretty often (John 16:25). For the Comforter to be "in the people" does not necessarily entail that he will be in them in the literal sense. For instance, we see that the disciples could possibly be 'in' Jesus and the Father (John 17:21), yet no one takes this literally. This fact comfortably allows other possible meanings for the text under discussion.
David Wood said:
Seventh, Jesus said that he would send the Comforter from the Father. Muslims do not believe that Muhammad was sent by Jesus; they believe that Muhammad was sent by God. So, unless Muslims are willing to admit that Jesus is God, they should not accept this as a prophecy about Muhammad.
Yes, but the Comforter will "proceed from the Father" [Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent by God] and Jesus stating that he would send the Comforter could just be a way of him expressing that he will make room for him to come after he leaves. Or it simply means that it is really the Father who is sending the Holy Spirit (not Jesus), but the Father is sending him in the name of Jesus (meaning with the authority of Jesus who predicted his coming) (John 14:26). This is something that Muslims would agree with.
So Jesus "sending the Comforter" is just a way of saying that the Comforter would come and speak in the name of Jesus (meaning that he agrees with Jesus and that Jesus acknowledges him)
David Wood said:
Finally, prior to his ascension, Jesus predicted that his followers would "be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence" (Acts 1:5). The Holy Spirit came to Jesus' followers shortly after his ascension to the Father:
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)
Thus, the fulfillment of this prophecy came within a matter of days. Muhammad came more than five hundred years later.
The book of Acts is not the Gospel, thus I don't know how it is relevant to the dicussion. Secondly, the verse itself does not clearly indicate that what is promised to come (The Comforter) is the Holy Spirit that they will be baptized with.
My main interest was to respond to David Wood's arguments against the major prophecies and to show that he hasn't clearly proven any of his points. I have no interest in continuing further into the discussion.
Derik Adams responded to this article and I replied back here.